Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

Major Professor

Bobbie J. Greenlee, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Darlene Bruner, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Nell Faucette, Ed.D.

Committee Member

Zorka Karanxha, Ed.D.


Ethics, Ethical dilemmas, Ethical leadership, Principal preparation, School administrators


This study examined the conceptual framework of ethical reasoning of public elementary school assistant principals during decision-making. An ethical framework not only provides a descriptive way of thinking during ethical decision-making, but also provides a rationale for decisions. The purpose of this study was to determine which ethical reasoning framework, including the ethics of justice, critique, care, and the profession, elementary school assistant principals' use during decision-making. Additionally, the study determined other resources assistant principals' consult during decision-making.

This study incorporated descriptive survey research through purposeful sampling with specific participant criteria. A researcher-developed survey of hypothetical dilemmas was deployed electronically to public elementary school assistant principals. Thirty-seven participants responded to four hypothetical scenarios, involving either staff or students, through a Likert scale and open response questions. Each hypothetical scenario included one of the ethical frameworks of justice, critique, care, or the profession embedded in one of four potential solutions. The findings suggest that elementary school assistant principals use an ethical framework during decision-making, whether they refer to the framework specifically by name or not. The data suggest the assistant principals in this study most frequently selected the ethic of care framework for their decision-making. Lastly, the evidence in this study suggests the most frequently consulted resource during decision-making by the assistant principals in this study was that of their principal.

There is much research on ethics, teachers, and school leaders, but there are few studies on ethics and the assistant principal. Additionally, there are few studies on the assistant principal and ethical decision-making. The literature suggested that the assistant principalship is a stepping-stone to the principalship. If the assistant principalship is truly a stepping-stone for future principals, assistant principals need to have developed their personal and professional code of ethics, as well as, have an understanding of the ethical reasoning frameworks for implementation during ethical decision-making.